Mon, Jun 04, 2018 - Page 5 News List

UN expert says US poor becoming poorer

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL:Law professor Philip Alston has prepared a report for the council based on visits to several US states and Puerto Rico in December last year

Reuters, GENEVA, Switzerland

Poverty in the US is extensive and deepening under US President Donald Trump’s administration, whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor people, while rewarding the rich, a UN human rights investigator has found.

UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Philip Alston called on US authorities to provide solid social protection and address underlying problems, rather than “punishing and imprisoning the poor.”

In a report, Alston said that as welfare benefits and access to health insurance were being slashed, Trump’s tax reform awarded “financial windfalls” to the mega-rich and large companies, further increasing inequality.

However, extreme poverty in the US is not new.

Alston said US policies since former US president Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty in the 1960s have been “neglectful at best.”

“But the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship,” Alston said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A US official in Geneva, asked for comment, said: “The Trump administration has made it a priority to provide economic opportunity for all Americans.”

Almost 41 million people or 12.7 percent live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and children account for one in three poor, Alston said.

The US has the highest youth poverty rate among industrialized countries, he added.

However, the data from the US Census Bureau he cited covers only the period through 2016, and he gave no comparative figures for before and after Trump came into office in January last year.

Alston, a veteran UN rights expert and New York University law professor, is scheduled to present his report to UN Human Rights Council later this month. It is based on a mission by the Australian in December last year to several US states, including rural Alabama, a slum in downtown Los Angeles and the US territory of Puerto Rico.

Alston said that a tax overhaul that passed the Republican-controlled US Congress that month would ensure the US remains the most unequal society in the developed world.

Trump has said tax cuts will lead to more take-home pay for workers and has touted bonuses some workers received from their employers as evidence the law is working.

The tax code also includes a measure to support locally directed efforts to fight unemployment and poverty.

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